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History (and Hers)

Hey…I’m Mark Gross, the Founder of School Loop.  Along with co-founders Tom Burns and Dede Tisone, School Loop was launched in 2004.

School Loop was born during my first year of teaching high school in 2004. Prior to teaching, I worked in publishing for 20 years.  Somewhere along the way, the iMark Grossnternet came along, and I became director of what was then called “New Media Strategy” for a newspaper and magazine publisher.  I moved to California in 1997 to help launch Business 2.0, a magazine about online business, a risky idea in those days considering there wasn't much business online. Things took off, and two years later I was president of the online division of what had become a large, global, public company.

Right at the peak of the boom in 2001, my grandma called to announce she had bought stock in AOL.  I figured since the grandmas were in, it was probably over.  I cashed out, and started a semi-professional career playing poker.  My dad told his friends I had become a cardiologist.  Then, 9/11.

After 9/11, I wanted to do more meaningful work, so I went back to college, got my history degree and credential, and found myself teaching in a windowless classroom in San Jose.

To make the world a better place, I believe we need to be able to collaborate together across all borders - distance, time, culture, socio-economic status, you name it.  So I worked to bring collaborative experiences to my students. To make these experiences real, I embedded technology into the day-to-day reality of school, a novel idea back in 2004.  We did it by corralling 60 laptops for my room, and using the hottest, coolest technology of the day: Yahoo Groups.

We did some cool stuff, starting with a project called Outside My Window.  Ultimately, this work on collaboration earned me an Internet Innovator award, but my most important work came after my district dismantled our small learning community school in favor of a traditional high school.

I had no idea what small learning community meant when I joined my school, but I fell in love with the idea that when a team of adults commit to knowing - really knowing - a student, and when that student knows that they matter, there is a real chance to make a difference.

Theory is one thing, but as anyone who has taught knows, teaching is hard and time is short.  There just isn’t the time to do all things we want to do, particularly if those things include involving parents and collaborating with colleagues to support at-risk students.

To save time, I focused on reducing the amount of time wasted trying to coordinate and align activity in school.  First, simply getting all your students on the same page regarding homework is a challenge.  Beyond that, keeping colleagues in the loop is nearly impossible, much less parents.  So while a lot of people were trying to work together, most of their time was spent simply finding out what was going on.

To solve this problem, I put the students in charge! I had a small set publish their assignments and lesson notes.  Because they all had the same teachers – small learning community – one student could publish for all.  I then set it up so all that homework was emailed home to parents each night.  Bingo! Everyone was in the loop!

Things were great, until the district disbanded my school.  Our small learning community became a large learning community. All our hard work was out the window.  So, building on my classroom publishing model, I created School Loop as way to help all schools create engaged, collaborative communities. 

Things worked out, and for more than fourteen years now School Loop has helped millions of kids and their families, and supported hundreds of thousands of educators in their work.